Quality links test at County Louth Golf Club, Baltray
We’re at County Louth Golf Club, otherwise known as Baltray, this week for the Nissan Irish Open – a big event for everyone here, especially the Irish players.
It’s a very fair and enjoyable links golf course. Some players here are saying it is the best links they have ever played and that says a lot about it. I would love to line up the 156 players at the end of the week and try and find somebody with a bad word to say about it because I don’t think it would be possible.
I have quite a lot of experience of playing here over the years. I played a good few amateur tournaments here and, at one stage, I used to come up every Wednesday during the winter and play. I played a four-ball each week, so I’m somewhat familiar with the golf course.
Obviously a few tees have changed since then but I know the golf course and have a lot of memories, which come back to me the more I play the course. In the old days, when the East of Ireland amateur event was played here they managed to get the greens up to incredible speeds.
It has maintained the majority of its links feel over the years. Probably when I played it ten years ago there was less rough around the greens, but this is very linksy. It is as linksy as last week at Troon without a doubt.
I would put the fifth up as one of the best holes in the world. It’s just a superb par-3 – only 175 yards long and not a beast of a hole, but just fasntastic. The seventh is another fine par-3. The two par- threes on the front nine are as good as any short holes you will get anywhere.
There are a lot of strong holes. The ninth is a good par-4 at 419 yards while the first is a reasonably tough opening hole, long-ish at 454 yards. The 14th is another fine par-4. When I look at a golf hole I tend to look at those which are not 480- yard par-4s. I like short and dangerous holes which require you to think a bit more. I would definitely put five as my favourite hole out there. We hit 4-iron in there, just to try and keep it down under the wind.
If you play the par-3s in level par this week you are going to be on a good thing. The 15th is not a scary par three but has it troubles. I would be looking to play the par-3 solidly for the week and like everyone else make your score on the par-5s and some par-4s.
Always a great week
The Irish Open is one of the most popular events with the players. You might miss out a bit on some elite players who play a worldwide schedule. Also, just after the Open some don’t feel like they can fit the event in. But I don’t know hardly anyone from the European Tour who miss the Irish Open. Players arrive expecting to get a great golf course and expecting to enjoy their week – and that’s what they always get. You don’t see an atmosphere at regular events that you would get here. I am not staying at Drogheda but I am sure there is a buzz about the town because of the Irish Open and the players appreciate that. The normal, rank and file player is cheered by their name. Even the guys who don’t play well enjoy their week. It is one of those events where players hope to play well and if they don’t, it is still a good week for a holiday. There are a lot of events which are hard work. The Irish Open is never hard work. There is always something going on and as I say, there is a buzz about the event. From the players’ side, it is a premier event.
I wouldn’t say my game is in good shape at present - the last couple of weeks I have struggled a bit. But saying that – and looking at it in a positive light – I have spent the last fortnight working through it and will probably come out a better player for it as I’ve figured out a few things in that period.
My playing partners for the first two rounds are Ben Curtis and Philippe Lima. We are off from the first tee on the opening day at 2.30, while for the second round we start at 9.50 from the 10th. Maybe, some of you will get a chance to watch to us…
Anyway, thanks for reading – I’ll be back with a review next week.